Re: I am pretty sure that this is silly

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Until I see some complaints from the same about the caricature of Ahmadinejad that TNR used and the uncomfortable similarities between it and similar caricatures used for worse ends in the past, Mitchell Cohen can blow me.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:39 PM
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All three clauses are vague to the point of vacancy. We ought to be setting the antisemitic bar higher, to give American young people something to strive for.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:42 PM
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The first antecedent, in particular, has to apply to very few fringe people. Most of the stuff that gets labeled anti-Zionist starts from the premise that Israel already wrongly is treated like an exception, and were I to describe, on Mars maybe, a created state with the same sort of religious and political divisions, we'd not hail it as a good thing.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:52 PM
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If you're an anti-Zionist, you're an anti-Semite. But if you're anti-Semitic and pro-Zionist, you're a valued friend of Israel.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:52 PM
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Most of the stuff that gets labeled anti-Zionist starts from the premise that Israel already wrongly is treated like an exception, and were I to describe, on Mars maybe, a created state with the same sort of religious and political divisions, we'd not hail it as a good thing.

Yes, exactly. The set of people who really and truly meet all three criteria has got to be extremely small if it exists at all. So yes, silly.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:54 PM
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As far as I can tell, the philosophical basis on which a "Jewish homeland" should logically exist only made sense during about a 50-year period punctuated by the First World War. It seems like a bizarre idea now.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:55 PM
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if your sneer at the Zionists doesn't sound a whole lot different from American neoconservative sneers at leftists

This is a particular non-sequitur. Weird.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:56 PM
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As far as I can tell, the philosophical basis on which a "Jewish homeland" should logically exist only made sense during about a 50-year period punctuated by the First World War. It seems like a bizarre idea now.

Pretty much, yeah. It didn't even make a whole hell of a lot of sense then, actually, but definitely much more than now.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:57 PM
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I don't know of anyone who meets the first conditional, even Noam Chomsky and the others who are always described as self hating Jews.

The ground for criticizing Israel are things like separation of church and state and opposition to torture. Is there anyone out there who says "Religion and state should be separated in Israel, but not the US?"


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:59 PM
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the philosophical basis on which a "Jewish homeland" should logically exist only made sense

Do lots of countries have sound philosophical bases? This seems like a dodge. Nationalism is patchwork everywhere.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:02 PM
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As far as I can tell, the philosophical basis on which a "Jewish homeland" should logically exist only made sense during about a 50-year period punctuated by the First World War. It seems like a bizarre idea now.

I'm not sure I agree, but I've never heard the issue put quite that way before. I suppose I assume that "the Jews" were resident in [insert your preferred name here] with as much claim to aboriginality as anybody else, until they were expelled by the Romans after the destruction of Temple II: The Herodifying. I don't jerk the knee at the idea of a "homeland" (whatever that means) for Kurds, Ainu, Basques, Uighurs, Lapps, etc. Does the "bizarreness" come by way of opposition to the British Empire and all its works?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:04 PM
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I suppose I assume that "the Jews" were resident in [insert your preferred name here] with as much claim to aboriginality as anybody else, until they were expelled by the Romans

Yes, some two thousand years before the creation of the state in question.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:07 PM
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the philosophical basis on which a "Jewish homeland" should logically exist only made sense during about a 50-year period punctuated by the First World War. It seems like a bizarre idea now.

I'm pretty sympathetic to the idea of a Jewish homeland, actually. I don't know how logical my sympathy is, though.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:10 PM
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I don't know how logical my sympathy is, though.

It's pretty logical not to want to be accused of antisemitism.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:12 PM
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The Yiddish Policemen's Union was quite thoughtful on the topic.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:14 PM
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The aboriginal claim has to be tied with the idea of creating a refuge from anti-Semitism, which, whatever its hyperbole today, was pretty foundational to the operating manual of many hundreds of European years. Considering that, it would seem that the basis, philosophical or no, would extend at least into the second half of the 20th Century. Ned, can you explain what you mean in 6?


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:14 PM
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I always thought that the purpose of the Balfour Declaration was to get those pesky Jews out of Europe and back where they belong. Who cares if there's a bunch of wogs already there. What's anti-semetic about that?


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:15 PM
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11: But that ignores the expulsion and the intervening 2000 years.

In any case, I don't think most states have a strong philosophical basis other than 'well, we killed everyone else with a good claim to it' or 'we had to draw lines on a map somewhere.' That it lacks philosophical grounding isn't the problem with Israel as a state; it's a whole host of other issues.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:16 PM
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But that ignores the expulsion and the intervening 2000 years.

The claim to aboriginality could not obtain without the corollary of diaspora.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:18 PM
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if your sneer at the Zionists doesn't sound a whole lot different from American neoconservative sneers at leftists

This part seemed the stupidest. The left doesn't care much about neoconservative sneers. It is the stupid neoconservative wars that get people worked up.


Posted by: joeo | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:19 PM
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But it's a silly claim 2000 years later. The claim only obtains because a lot of people believe the religious book that says they have a right to be there and no one knew what to do after WWII.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:20 PM
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If you judge a Jewish state by standards that you apply to no one else

Sure sign of bullshit.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:21 PM
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It's pretty logical not to want to be accused of antisemitism.

Eh. Even Cohen requires more than opposition to Zionism.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:26 PM
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Well, there's three strawmen that'll never bother anyone again.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:33 PM
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I know lots of people who judge Israel by standards that they apply to no other state. Like all of my exquisitely sensitive otherwise lefty friends who think it would be swell for all Arabs to be forcibly expelled into Jordan.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:36 PM
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The first antecedent, in particular, has to apply to very few fringe people

Defining this to anyone's satisfaction is going to turn out to be the rub, I suspect. The heuristic, however, is sound. Consider, for example, a person who complains incessantly about the human rights abuses of Cuba while ignoring far worse human rights abuses by other states. This case would make me wonder: "is this person really concerned with human rights, or is he just anti-Castro."


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:42 PM
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Maybe I'm encouraging anti-Semitism here, but I don't see much difference between that sneer at leftists and the American neoconservative sneers at leftists.


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:42 PM
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25 is absolutely right. Judging Israel as a political entity just like any other nation would be a radical shift in our foreign policy.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:43 PM
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27 gets it right.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:44 PM
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26: We have such a unique relationship to Israel--there seem to be lots of people who want to confront Iran, even militarily, because it poses a threat to Israel--that the Cuban example doesn't seem like a very good parallel. I'm not sure there is one.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:47 PM
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26: Consider, for example, a person who complains incessantly about the human rights abuses of Cuba while ignoring far worse human rights abuses by other states.

IKDFers who accuse people of "ignoring far worse human rights abuses by other states" are typically stuffing irrelevant sentiments into someone's mouth. I would challenge any one of them to find a leftist who was concerned about Palestine but not Tibet.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:50 PM
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27: More specifically, the sneer, "to responsibly hold your opinions, you must first disavow everyone else ever associated with those opinions, or else you will be burdened with all of their sins" is pretty bog-standard. Maybe Cohen is thinking of a different neoconservative sneer.


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:52 PM
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I quite agree that the Cuba parallel is a bad one. And indeed, it was meant less to be a parallel than an example of how the heuristic in #1 is supposed to work.

How one would actually know if one is judging Israel "differently" given the uniqueness of our (that is America's) historical relationship is difficult for exactly the reasons you give.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:54 PM
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I agree with baa to an extent; just as Glenn Reynolds brings up gay and feminist issues only to complain about Iran etc., it would be lame to bring up criticisms of Israel for parallel purposes. On the other hand, I always assumed that some Americans' complaints about Israel were motivated by the "we're paying for some of this" and "maybe they'll listen" factors rather than anti-semitism. (I.e., there are pragmatic reasons why one would want to complain about Israel but not Syria.)


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:59 PM
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But that isn't how the heuristic works! In your example the Cuban-government-fixated individual earns the label of "anti-Castro," which is certainly fair since Castro is a singular symbol of the Cuban regime. But the Israeli-government-fixated individual is labelled as "anti-Jewish," and indeed is assumed not to be "anti-Israeli-government" or "anti-Peres." Nobody would reasonably conclude that someone fixated on Cuban human rights abuses just hates Latin Americans.


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 2:02 PM
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just as Glenn Reynolds brings up gay and feminist issues only to complain about Iran etc., it would be lame to bring up criticisms of Israel for parallel purposes.

I don't understand what that means.

there are pragmatic reasons why one would want to complain about Israel but not Syria.

I think that's right, though I don't think it's only pragmatic reasons.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 2:02 PM
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"we're paying for some of this" and "maybe they'll listen" factors

Totally agree. In general, I think the heuristic has more utility with respect to Israel outside of the US.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 2:05 PM
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"we're paying for some of this"

Aid to Israel makes up something along the lines of 40% of all American foreign aid (or at least it did before the Second Attack on Iraq).


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 2:06 PM
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Hence "living somewhere very different." Maybe things are much worse in Europe. But by God of all the dangers facing America, becoming anti-semitic via worries about Israeli policies is far down on the list.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 2:15 PM
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Not sure I follow the logic - does this mean if one is a Semite that whatever the Semite wants in terms of territorial borders, the Semite gets?

Israel's Semites need to integrate - globalize effectively so there is really no such thing as Zion/Israel from an economic/social/cultural perspective. Be more of a melting pot. As we see in the EU and US. Blur the national borders, over time, to co-opt the non-Jewish Semites in Zion/Israel.

But what of all the Jews who have been killed by Palestinians? Remember them, mourn, but recall they are not going to be brought back to life by extreme nationalism. Life/Zion is for the living, plus the future inhabitants.

Perhaps start with sharing tourism within the region - give the Palestinians an economic interest in the success of Israel (like China/Vietnam has in the US, and Germany/Japan has in the US).

It is 2007, not 1947 or 1967.


Posted by: cfw | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 2:24 PM
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40: What?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 2:37 PM
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cfw is totally right: it is, in fact, 2007. No wonder I can't find any goddamned hippies.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 2:48 PM
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No wonder I can't find any goddamned hippies

They're all buried in my basement.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 2:52 PM
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The hippies are over there quoting someone or other in the lesbian man thread.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 2:52 PM
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Foreign affairs is an area where analogies are particularly slippery, but Unfogged must not unilaterally disarm. Rather, diplomats must be dispatched to work out a Comprehensive Analogy Ban Treaty.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 2:53 PM
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Comprehensive Analogy Ban Treaty

If you want clear communication, you must maintain a defensive analogy stockpile.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 2:54 PM
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47

Weird that Bertrand Russell didn't see this.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 2:57 PM
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Wow, that thread has degenerated into a hairstyling discussion.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 3:00 PM
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Bertrand Russell was Dick Cheney before it was cool.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 3:01 PM
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48: Ascended, thank you.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 3:02 PM
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26: I think that's right, in that if that's the only time someone ever protests about Israel-type problems (or the rights of gays in Iran, or feminists in whatever target we're cooking up), we would be right to question her motives. But I see the debate as almost going the other way; there's a 'but it's the Holy Land' move that seems to justify more than it should.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 3:06 PM
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Odd that the Holocaust hasn't come up here (I don't think), given that Peter Novick makes a pretty convincing case that it's the source of the US's exceptional treatment of Israel.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 4:05 PM
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52: You mean that having your own sovereign state is a kind of fair reparation for genocide? As a precedent, given that genocide keeps happening, I'm not sure it's one that the world could continually make good on.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 4:27 PM
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In order to receive your sovereign state (tm) after the genocide, you must first have been a sizable minority of a guarantor state. The guarantor state must agree to the arrangement even to the estrangement of other key partners. Offer void in Wisconsin and Puerto Rico.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 4:35 PM
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As a precedent, given that genocide keeps happening, I'm not sure it's one that the world could continually make good on.

As my father likes to say, how do you know you can't until you try?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 4:35 PM
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54: Exactly. Does the world only do this for genocides with deaths over X number? 20th-century genocides only? Genocides of non-Africans? Genocides that include forced labor and/or sexual slavery? Genocides that follow at least a thousand years of marginalization? What, exactly, are the requirements of suffering that make creating an independent state a necessary and/or reasonable idea, and who makes that decision?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 4:42 PM
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53: Nope, that wasn't what I was saying at all. The a in anmik stands for antisemite. But I do think that's Novick's reading of the US electorate's willingness (circa 1970ish) to allow its government to treat Isreal as wholly unlike any other nation in the world. That tendency has now become ingrained and amplified by W/M's Israel lobby, of course. My point was just that it was odd that the Holocaust hadn't come up here as something worth considering in why Israel gets treated differently.

And while we're on the subject, that particular genocide does seem, at least at first blush, a bit different from many others, no? Not to cast myself as a genocide exceptionalist, but Hitler's effort to exterminate the Jews was pretty unusual -- at least in the modern period -- I think. Or maybe not.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 4:44 PM
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I would say every genocide is unusual.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 4:50 PM
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What, exactly, are the requirements of suffering that make creating an independent state a necessary and/or reasonable idea, and who makes that decision?

Descriptively, a pre-existing territorial-nationalist ideology among a victimized group that also has a certain amount of political clout as a minority group within powerful countries that have just defeated the genocidal regime in a massive war.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 4:51 PM
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When do the Romani get their state, and where will it be?


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 4:51 PM
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That last part is particularly important.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 4:51 PM
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I would say every genocide is unusual.

Murder is as common as breathing, but every murderer is special.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 4:54 PM
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When do the Romani get their state, and where will it be?

Not in Romania, which still has the occasional "let's burn their houses" holiday weekend, as I recall.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 4:55 PM
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58: Fair enough. I suppose by exceptional I meant the number of people killed and the manner in which they were killed. Which isn't to say that you're wrong. Really. Just that the attempted extermination of Europe's Jews has its own historical gravity, which gets factored into people's perceptions of Israel (rightly or wrongly), for some actual reasons beyond just the excellence of a lobby.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 4:57 PM
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Re the argument that holding Israel to a higher standard than other countries means anti-Semitism, what about South Africa and Apartheid?

It seems to me that the people who complain about Israel's treatment of the Palestinians were also complaining about South Africa's treatment of its black population during Apartheid. And if I recall correctly, most of these people were holding South Africa to a higher standard than other African countries -- I certainly don't remember many on-campus rallies protesting Uganda. But no one claimed that holding South Africa to a higher standard was evidence of anti-Britishism or anti-Boerism.

I think we tend to hold Israel (and South Africa) to a higher standard because, tribally speaking, they are "us." Israel, like South Africa in the 1980s, is basically a white/Euro country, both demographically and institutionally. So we care more about how they act.

This can be characterized in a positive way, as in we are responsible for the behavior of countries we establish and support, like we are more responsible for our children's behavior than the neighbor kids'. Or, it can be characterized in a negative way: We hold westerners to a higher standard because we think westerners should be more civilized.

But at any rate, any such checklist for anti-Semitism that includes "holding Israel to a higher standard than its neighbors" should also include "didn't hold South Africa to a higher standard than other African countries."


Posted by: Steve H. | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 4:59 PM
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58: Also, if every genocide is special, then no genocide is special.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 5:03 PM
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58: unusual by normal human conduct, maybe. i think that in terms of number of people killed and also in terms of the seriousness of the intent - hitler was making a serious effort to kill all the jews, rather than just kill a bunch and drive the rest out of the country or area or what have you.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 5:16 PM
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I think 65 gets it pretty much right, despite violating the analogy ban.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 5:26 PM
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Analogies encourage anti-Semitism.


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 5:36 PM
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Teo's #59 seems right, though I have always thought that it mattered that it was a High Culture European country, and that the industrial aspect mattered a great deal. I have always wondered what would have been the result if it had been the Russians who had been responsible. My suspicion is: "Dude, that sucks. But what did you expect? Russians."


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 5:45 PM
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59, 70: Yup, quite specific. But given the givens, almost certainly true.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 5:48 PM
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I like 65 as well. I've thought the same thing generally, but hadn't gotten to the SA analogy. Mostly, I'd just gotten to the point of thinking that 'holding Israel to a higher standard' came off often more as anti-Arab racism than anti-Semitism: Israel is 'us' and can be expected to behave in a civilized fashion and be criticized when it doesn't, while Palestinians are poor-developing-country-brown people, and who knows why they do what they do.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 5:49 PM
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69 and 70 each engendered my lolz.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 5:54 PM
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the Russians who had been responsible

the Final Pogrom?


Posted by: Elders of Zion | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 5:57 PM
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Have we already suggested that we volunteer Nebraska for the role of Palestinean State?


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 6:00 PM
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I have always thought that it mattered that it was a High Culture European country, and that the industrial aspect mattered a great deal.

Yeah, I think so.

As for "holding Israel to a higher standard," I think this is pretty defensible for Jews, since the idea that Israel is for all Jews (an idea that I personally am not crazy about) is so central to the Zionist project. It's like, okay, if you keep telling us Israel is our country, we're going to expect it to act the way we think a country should act. For gentiles, not as defensible, and somewhat puzzling. 65 sounds like a good explanation to me.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 6:01 PM
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75: It's been discussed. The consensus was that at this point, uninhabited places are uninhabited for a reason.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 6:02 PM
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For gentiles, not as defensible, and somewhat puzzling.

As an American, I'm pretty comfortable with the idea that us giving them billions a year in aid entitles us to hold them to a higher standard.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 7:24 PM
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Nebraska would be so rad as the new Palestine. I used to live in Nebraska. It would be improved greatly.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 7:29 PM
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North Dakota! It's very affordable.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 7:47 PM
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When do the Romani get their state, and where will it be?
Pree-zacktly.

Are there any Jews in the whole world who are as oppressed as the average Romanian Roma person? You certainly won't find them in the US, Europe, China, India, Australia, New Zealand, South America or pretty much anywhere with a functional government. Sure, I don't suppose I'd like to be a Russian Jew just now (although I'd sure rather be one now than one a hundred years ago.)


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 7:47 PM
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72: Exactly.

81: And the preferred solution has to be functional multi-ethnic states rather than endlessly proliferating ethnic homelands. Tribalism works better as culture than politics.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:09 PM
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81: If you regard increased persecution of Jews as a way to reconcile the logical inconsistentcy that you cite, then Jews are gonna think your anti-semitic.

Me, I'm happy to see the Kurds, for example, catch a bit of a break in the last 15 years or so, and if the Somalis are still screwed, well, I think that's a separate issue.

The Palestinians and Jews are going to have to cut a deal, but any deal is going to be based on all of history. If you exclude history between, say, 100 AD and 1900, you're going to have a distorted view of what needs to happen. Likewise if you want to downplay history from 1940 to the present.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:59 PM
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And if you regard 83.1 as a plausible reading of 81, you're looking awfully hard for opportunities to make accusations of antisemitism. Luckily no one would do either of those things on the kinder, gentler Unfogged.

83.3: I'm right with you on history from 1940 to the present, but history between 100 AD and 1900? Really? Does anyone else get to claim ancestral homelands their ancestors got kicked out of a couple millenia ago, or was that a one-time-only thing?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:45 PM
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Anecdotally: I wrote an opinion last year granting asylum to a Jewish guy from Albania. There were a variety of bases for it, the thing that really blew my mind though: although he was born & raised in Albania his passport gave his nationality as "Israelite". His family had been targeted by the Hoxha dictatorship for political reasons & he'd been living abroad on student visas for a while--every time he went home to visit relatives he'd get detained by authorities who claimed he was a foreigner trying to enter a visa & who would imprison him until someone paid them a sufficiently large bribe.

Of course, this isn't very good evidence of anti-semitism as a justification for the law of return etc., because only his father was Jewish--mom was Muslim, so he wasn't considered a Jew by the Israeli government.

I can actually perfectly understand why the Israeli gov't is terrified of granting full citizenship to citizens of the occupied territories, but the only two moral solutions are to either offer full citizenship or end the occupation & the decades-long fantasy of not having to do either is a lot harder to excuse.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:01 PM
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I'm right with you on history from 1940 to the present, but history between 100 AD and 1900? Really? Does anyone else get to claim ancestral homelands their ancestors got kicked out of a couple millenia ago, or was that a one-time-only thing?

I read that part as referring to the history between 100 and 1900 AD of the land in question.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:17 PM
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86: You may be right. Long day.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 11:48 PM
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I'm a bit puzzled by the apparently-developing consensus that Israel actually is held "to a higher standard." Up until geopolitics necessarily propelled the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the forefront of world attention in the last eight years or so, Israel didn't even get a significantly bigger slice of Western consciousness than the ills besetting various Arab countries that I'm aware of.

The "Israel is singled out" argument pretty much leads the pack of the pro-Israeli meme most in need of retirement, IMO.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 2:29 AM
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That's such an old trick, that accusation of "holding Israel to a higher standard". Funny thing is, you can accuse anybody of this no matter what country they're criticising, but here you'll only ever hear it about Israel or the United States. (Though many Arab dictators are awfully found of that trick in the reverse direction).

#52 has the relationship between US support for Israel and the Holocaust (or rather, increased awareness of and attention for the Holocaust) the wrong way around, if you believe Norman Finkelstein. It's not because the US feels sorry for Israel, but because Israel is a good policeman keeping the Middle East in line that it gets such generous suppport. The Holocaust in this context is misused as a propaganda tool to show Israel is special, its existence justified by it even though that's historical nonsense.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 2:52 AM
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89: Israel is a shitty policeman, for cultural reasons if nothing else. A strong Jordan would work much better for us. If not Jordan , then SA. If not Saudi Arabia, then Kuwait, a nation entirely dependent upon us for its continued existence,

I do not mean to deny that the US has "policemen" guarding its interests, only that Israel has been chosen for such a benefit. Other nations in the region could do a better job.

As an American, I do hold Israel to a "higher standard". Not only do my prejudices expect that an basically "Western" country comport itself with regard to the laws of war, I am funding its warfare. If I were contributing to Hamas, and they blew up a family, I'd be tempted to cancel my subscription. If the Israelis decide to cluster bomb a neighborhood, I have no such recourse. Thus,as long as it is taking my money, I expect and demand that the IDF comport itself civilly.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 3:17 AM
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Israel isn't held to a disproportionately high standard. It gets a disproportionately large amount of attention when it breaches human rights standards, but they're the same standards.

Why does it get so much attention? Does there have to be a reason? Israel gets a lot of attention because it's always in the news, and it's always in the news because people pay attention to it. It's sort of the Paris Hilton of human rights - Paris doesn't really do anything particularly different from about a zillion other posh blonde birds, but she's the one who is always in the news, because she is. People who go round saying that Paris Hilton is a slut but never mention Minnie Mae from Muskogee (a hypothetical non-famous person who sleeps around much more) aren't holding Paris to a higher standard of sexual morality, they're just paying attention to the fact that Paris is newsworthy and Minnie Mae isn't. Any consideration of the underlying self-organising system would suggest that there would most likely be somewhere that got disproportionate attention, and Israel is it. It's the dynamics of an internet flamewar; one that started within the Jewish community and which everyone else got dragged into.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 3:20 AM
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Also, 89: Continental commenters rock, you first among them. There should be a shrine.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 3:21 AM
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So who's the "Minnie Mae from Muskogee" then? Zimbabwe? Not hardly. Burma?


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 3:24 AM
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91: You're just lucky the analogy police are asleep.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 3:38 AM
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93. I hold Israel to higher standards than Zimbabwe and Burma, because I demand more of functional democracies than I do of crappy third world dictatorships. CTWDs should be despised and then overthrown (by their own people would be favourite); functional democracies have set *themselves* a high standard which they should be held to.

I don't know who Minnie Mae is. Maybe Turkey? The treatment of the Roma by some eastern European countries?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 3:38 AM
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The treatment of the Roma by some eastern European countries?

Nasty, yes, but not really analogous. Not unless the Slovak government has taken to bombing the Roma slums.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 3:42 AM
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Oh, wait, the analogy police are asleep? Here then:
Thus,If my model were correct, I'd be paying the girl's rent, and then become astonished that she turned the occasional trick. Not so many as those whores down in 309! How dare I compare her to them? But just enough to get by. A girl's got a live, and she needs her space.

I am so banned. Nice knowing you all.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 3:50 AM
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I hold Israel to higher standards than Zimbabwe and Burma

No you don't. You demand exactly the same standards from Israel, Zimbabwe and Burma; that they respect human rights. What specific breach of human rights is it that you think is basically all right in Burma but beyond the pale for Israel?

The standard is the same. You just spend more time thinking about Israel and/or criticise it more vehemently, because you demand more fo functional democracies etc etc.

With regard to the Minnie Mae part of the analogy, I am a bit of an Africa nerd, so I could name about a dozen countries which have much worse human rights than Israel, but never make it into the newspapers. They never make it into the newspapers because they're obscure African countries, though, and if they did ever show up, everyone would say "that's terrible, much worse than Israel", because everyone does, in fact, judge them by the same standards as Israel.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 4:03 AM
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everyone does, in fact, judge them by the same standards as Israel.
That just isn't true. If somebody rampaged through the Tel Aviv suburbs demanding recruitment or death I think I'd hear about it. This practice seems to be standard in West African Conflicts.

The more I think about it the more 98 seems spectacularly wrong. I've only argued one angle, and not well, but I suspect there's fertile ground for argument.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 4:24 AM
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The claim "The standard is the same. is silly. I see that we demand more from democracies, and less from nutjob dictatorships, this is an explanation, and not an excuse. Can we excuse the execution of any north korean on the grounds that the sentence r is insane? We cannot, as NK is a nutjob dictatorship. Is Israel a nutjob dictatorship? Why should we treat it as one? We treat Israel as a Democracy.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 4:51 AM
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84, 86, 87: teo reads me correctly.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 4:55 AM
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99: everyone does, in fact, judge them by the same standards as Israel.
That just isn't true. If somebody rampaged through the Tel Aviv suburbs demanding recruitment or death I think I'd hear about it. This practice seems to be standard in West African Conflicts.

I think you may have missed the point. It's about what standard we hold countries to, not about the way those countries behave. I agree with 98 and think that 99 should be rethought.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 5:03 AM
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We treat Israel as a Democracy.

One of the creepiest things about the past 6 years is how often this gets turned around, to become "We live in a democracy, let's act like Israel." So, for instance, we have people arguing that a little theocracy is okay, that air travel security issues would respond to the Israel model of random friskings every 10 seconds (some being more random than others), that we should be sending commando teams all over the place for extra-judicial executions, etc.

Frankly, I despair at a just solution ever being reached in the Levant. Not surprising, since I'm an anarchist, and the whole situation just underscores the lack of justice inherent in the state. But I'll go further and say there doesn't seem to be much chance of a solution that's even a tiny bit just. The whole thing probably will end in some awful conflagration, maybe not this year or next, but right now it seems pretty inevitable.

A no-state solution is the only way to go.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 5:06 AM
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I despair at a just solution ever being reached in the Levant

You and me both. I'd even drop the "just" modifier.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 5:09 AM
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That just isn't true. If somebody rampaged through the Tel Aviv suburbs demanding recruitment or death I think I'd hear about it. This practice seems to be standard in West African Conflicts.

To reiterate dsquared: these aren't different standards, these are different levels of attention being paid. When you do hear about human rights in these countries you (correctly) evaluate them as being worse than human rights violations in Israel because you are, in fact, judging them by the same standard. If you were judging them by different standards, you'd think something like, "Well, they're massacring people in the DRC, but hey, it's only Africa. Now look at that wall in Israel - that's what I call oppression!" But what actually happens is you think what's happening in the DRC is much worse than what's happening in Israel, but you just don't think about the DRC nearly as much.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 5:10 AM
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In theory, I support no-state solutions, but in fact, even the no-relationship solution is a hard sell.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 5:10 AM
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A different standard:
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - A Saudi court sentenced a woman who had been gang raped to six months in jail and 200 lashes -- more than doubling her initial penalty for being in the car of a man who was not a relative, a newspaper reported Thursday.

Hmm, wonder what the echo chamber will do with this one? Probably not much. Of course, our good (oil) friends in Saudi (oil) Arabia are our (oil) partners in fighting (oil) terrorism and ensuring a stable (oil) Middle East.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 5:18 AM
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It's a cheap trick. Complain publicly about the US torturing Arab prisoners, and you'll hear, from someone, that at least we're not lopping their heads off.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 5:19 AM
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104 is silly. The current status quo is unsustainable, for demographic reasons if nothing else. The "Palestinian problem" isn't going to go on forever; the trouble is that absent a sea change in policy from the relevant political actors, it's going to end in a massive slaughter.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 5:23 AM
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102: It would be nice if you'd further articulate your objection.
Yes, we find that forcible conscription,rather than legislative conscription, is bad. What is your point? That forcible conscription occurs?
No, "It's about what standard we hold countries to" So to what standard should we hold Israel? That of an African Kleptocracy? That of the standard middle eastern Kingdom? I, personally, hold it to the standard of Politically Odd.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 5:27 AM
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108: Well yeah, exactly, it's doublethink. Saudi Arabia is simultaneously one of the ME dictatorships that Israel is held up as a shining example against, and a valuable US ally who's always been so nice about toeing the line when it comes to our little Levantine colony.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 5:45 AM
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90: Israel is a shitty policeman, for cultural reasons if nothing else. A strong Jordan would work much better for us. If not Jordan , then SA. If not Saudi Arabia, then Kuwait, a nation entirely dependent upon us for its continued existence.

It's those cultural reason, that is not being an Arab country, that makes Israel effective. It has a vested interest in keeping the Arab countries weak so they cannot threaten its existence, while its very existence helps prop up the authoritarian regimes in countries like Saudi Arabia by providing their population with a safety valve for their frustrations.
Same with Iran before the fall of the shaj.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 5:46 AM
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104 is silly [...] it's going to end in a massive slaughter.

Okay, if you consider massive slaughter a solution, then I guess you have a point.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 6:04 AM
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110 -- The standards are always the same. I think one would do better to focus on the word "hold" than the word "standard." As a question of how much leverage we have and how we are using it.

The truly interesting thing about this is that the complaint that too much attention is paid to every flaw, however minor, that might appear in Israeli conduct comes from people so obsessed with Israel that they would make its welfare the central concern of US foreign policy. Want me to apply the same emphasis to Israel as to Thailand? You go first.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 6:27 AM
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113: Look, your 104 reads as a suggestion that no solution, just or unjust, will ever come to Israel/Palestine, which implies that the current situation will just keep going on forever. Well, I don't think it will. I think there's every indication that things will get much, much worse unless parties like the United States drastically alter their policy towards the region, and will eventually reach a point where there are either no Palestinians left, or no Israelis left. You can be damn sure the conflict will be over when one of the sides has been wiped out. The problem, as minneapolitan noted, is that this is not a just solution.

I don't mean to belabor this, but it's too easy to shrug about the Middle East in a sort of "what can you do?" sort of way, with the assumption that these crazy people have been killing each other forever and will keep killing each other for a long time to come. Not only does this sort of thinking close off any possibility for positive change, but it ignores the very real threat of things getting much, much worse - that the killing will end because one side will run out of people to kill.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 6:45 AM
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Okay, if you consider massive slaughter a solution,

I believe the terminology for this sort of solution is "final" solution.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 6:55 AM
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I agree with Stras. I think that most the problem is at the US-Israel end, where the most militarist Americans and the most militarist Israelis have formed a tight alliance and control both countries. And even less-militarist Americans tend to be supportive of Israeli militarism.

Someone in American policy circles (Perle, Ledeen): has proposed making the Palestinians a "broken people" like the (pre-Iraq-partition) Kurds, with no political unit or cultural institutions. This would involve killing a lot of them, though not extermination.

The media greatlyexaggerate the intransigence of Islam. Egypt, Turkey, and Jordan have made peace, and a lot of what the other countries do is posturing. There still is a continual low-level warfare, but that's true other countries too: Sri Lanka, several African countries, Colombia, parts of the Caucasus. Patching together a solution would seem to be the way to go, but the US and Israel don't seem willing to offer the Palestinians much of anything at all.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 7:00 AM
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which implies that the current situation will just keep going on forever.

No, I agree the status quo can't hold, but I also don't see that either side is able to just wipe the other out. And there you have it. It's safe to assume something will change, but nobody else seems to know what it will be or why it would work and "something must happen because it simply must" isn't much of a hook to hang things on.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 7:10 AM
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117 seems basically right.

I've been struck by the fact that even the more militant end of the Palestinian movements have fairly vocally signalled a willingness to compromise.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 7:10 AM
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It's difficult, in the Middle East, to find a satisfactory moral and practical yardstick by which to measure events.

People of good will respond to this dilemma by picking factors to ignore. The most ardent on both sides want to write out of existence the people and history on the other side.

The joke, above, about there being plenty of room for a new Palestine in North Dakota is a funny joke precisely because it's so ahistorical. But I first heard that sort of remark made by a Gaza cleric, in all seriousness, when he proposed that the proper location of the Jewish state was, say, Montana.

Katherine argues above:

the only two moral solutions are to either offer full citizenship or end the occupation.

I think ending the Israeli occupation (of the West Bank and Gaza, not of Israel proper) is going to be the only answer that takes into account actual history - but I'm not sure I see a path from here to there.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 7:13 AM
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Jordan would make a crappy ME policeman. It's landlocked and has no water. Does it even have significant oil reserves? Anyway, it wouldn't get very far trying to bully its neighbors.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 7:14 AM
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willingness to compromise.

I'm not sure I know what the word "compromise" means in this context, ttaM, but I'm pretty sure if you went to Gaza and accused a Palestinian on the "more militant end of the Palestinian movements" of being willing to compromise, he'd take that as an insult.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 7:19 AM
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The present U.S. plan seems to be to spend twenty years or more destroying every unfriendly (to the US or Israel) government in the area. With no foreign support at all the Palestinians would have no hope and would basically wither.

We're five years into the 20-year-plan and it's going much less successfully than planned. The hawks are willing to pay this price indefinitely, and their solution is escalation to Iran and/or Syria, but I'm not sure how long public opinion will hold up, and (as McManus says) American economic problems might complicate things terribly.

One of the reasons why I don't accept the argument "It's all objective long-term forces, individual leaders can't change anything" is that, while successful initiatives by particular leaders are rare, and fw leaders have much freedom of choice in what they do, it still is possible to change the course of history by making enormous mistakes. There are no forces or mechanisms keeping that from happening, and failure is easy.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 7:20 AM
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At the more militant end, sure. Compromising leaders always have to ignore their militants. It's a common event.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 7:21 AM
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124: I still struggle with "compromise" in this context. It seemed to me (though I claim no expertise in this complicated situation) that Camp David constituted a viable compromise, and that its rejection was done by the Palestinian people.

It's fashionable in some circles to blame Arafat, and in other circles to blame Israel. Israel, I think, offered a decent compromise and Arafat correctly perceived that his people didn't want this deal.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 7:28 AM
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re: 125

I'm specifically thinking of much more recently than that.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 7:31 AM
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Camp David constituted a viable compromise

Bullshit.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 7:43 AM
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Israel, I think, offered a decent compromise and Arafat correctly perceived that his people didn't want this deal.

What does this even mean? What does "decent compromise" mean if one side doesn't want the deal, unless we're assuming that the Palestinians, as a people, are the psychos who won't pick up the $20 left on the street by a band of roving economists?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 7:50 AM
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127, 128: As I said in 122 and 125, the word "compromise" is a difficult one in this context.

Tim: If, by definition, a proposal that is rejected by one side is not a decent compromise, then Camp David was not a decent compromise. By definition.

I'd propose a different definition for compromise - a definition that allows for the improvement of conditions for both parties to a negotiation.

I don't have any doubt that both the Israelis and Palestinians are capable of rejecting such a deal. Nations don't act like the classic economic rational actor - just ask George Bush. Not everybody picks up that $20 bill. It's my best guess that the Palestinians left one on the sidewalk this time, though I admit the devil is always in the details and I'm no expert on the details.

But (I'll say it one more time) the concept of "compromise" is a difficult one in this situation. It could certainly be the case that real compromise in Israel/Palestine is entirely precluded by history and circumstance.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 8:08 AM
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I'd propose a different definition for compromise - a definition that allows for the improvement of conditions for both parties to a negotiation

no, too inclusive a definition. If we're only taking "improves conditions for both parties" as constitutive, then an ultimatum would be a kind of compromise.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 8:11 AM
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Israel, I think, offered a decent compromise

You think wrong. Have you ever looked at the map of the state that would've been created by that "decent compromise"? The West Bank would have been carved up by Israeli settlements and military outposts into a cluster of isolated bantustans. That's not a viable compromise, and it sure as hell wouldn't have made for a viable Palestinian state. Arafat rejected that deal because he knew it was a shitty deal, and he knew that Palestinians would, quite rightly, see him as a traitor for taking it.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 8:15 AM
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It could certainly be the case that real compromise in Israel/Palestine is entirely precluded by history and circumstance.

I tend to agree, which is why I usually avoid this debate. Neither Israel nor Palestine really recognizes the existence of the other.

The real questions are: when things get really bloody, should the US support one side or the other (obviously we'd support Israel) or just let things play themselves out? Should we join in, or should we mostly work to avoid spinoff problems in the larger world?

Any American who proposes a hands-off policy, or a neutral damage-control policy, will be accuse dof being an enemy of Israel and pro Palestinian. But that wouldn't be true. A pro-Palestinian policy wuld consist of giving several billion dollars a year to the Palestinians, and almost nothing to the Israelis.

I would support a neutral policy.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 8:16 AM
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130: I agree that my definition was oversimple, and for the reason that you propose. I was only trying to convey the potential nonzero nature of negotiation.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 8:18 AM
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104: no state solution - Oddly enough, it's been tried (or is being tried), at least as close as can be found in the world as he exists - I can think of a country where big stacks of social services are in the hands of private or semi-private or charitable organizations; where substantial portions of the legal system is in no less than 13 separate court systems, none of them directly responsible to the state; where even national defense has been outsourced to a non-state actor. Sadly, coercion, clashes, occasional violence, and the odd existential crisis for the entire society have not been thusly avoided.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 9:01 AM
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Have you ever looked at the map of the state that would've been created by that "decent compromise"?

Back when Camp David had just fallen apart, I saw one of those maps in either Libération or Le Monde Diplomatique. I was aghast, really taken aback. The way I'd always imagined the debate, there's be a nice dividing line down the middle of the country, and hey presto peace.

And then once I'd seen that map, I started to notice all of the US news articles about Israel/Palestine that would have been enormously clarified with the addition of a map. Instead, journalists' endless meanderings about neighborhoods and villages and camps and enclaves (many with hugely resonant religious names) ends up in a kind of Orientalised haze, place diffusing into idea. It's so much easier just to draw ideological lines, if you don't have a map.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 9:02 AM
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I had almost exactly the same experience with Lebanon coverage during their civil war way back when. The US papers talked about Muslims and Christians without noting that there were at least two kinds of each, and they never knew what to do with the Druze and the Armenians (who were Lebanese citizens born there). And they failed to recognize that these were militarized confessional groups holding territory, not religious organizations. After two or three weeks of this I read a 500-word box in Le Monde which laid everything out very clearly.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 9:21 AM
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I had an embarrassing moment blogging about Sudan here, along those lines. I put up some "something's going on in Sudan" post, which reflected the fact that I had no idea at all who the parties were or who was doing what. Really embarrassingly, I still have not had a moment of clarity. Does anyone know a good one-stop source for Africa news? I keep thinking that if I just read enough, eventually it'll start coming together and I'll know what's going on.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 9:27 AM
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135 is wonderfully put. Whenever I argue Israel/Palestine with friends (who sometimes stop being my friends after), I always have a detailed map at hand. The Dennis Ross line -- that Arafat, acting out of pique or ego, pissed away peace at Camp David, while poor, heroic Barak just sat there wringing his hands over the the lost opportunity -- really is nonsense. Which is not to say that Arafat was an ideal partner for making peace. He apparently did keep renegotiating key points on the fly. But Barak's deal was, as you point out, founded on a fractured Palestinian state, easily controlled, and essentially ungovernable. To understand this you have to look at the map. And yes, the same is true for Lebanon.

The spatial dimension of conflict abroad and American foreign policy is often lost on people who have a visceral hatred of geography rooted in Mr. Longo's eight-grade class. Or perhaps our cartographic ignorance is a byproduct of living in a continental nation, where borders, despite Lou Dobb's nattering, are relatively meaningless.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 9:41 AM
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137: The BBC is where I go for my Africa news. It's spotty, but much better than what we have here. That said, when you figure out Sudan, please let us know.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 9:43 AM
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Try this LB

http://africapundit.blogspot.com/


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 9:51 AM
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Last post there seems to be 2005.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 9:55 AM
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Oh, you want current news... I don't know, try the Africa Pundit blogroll. He was good when he was active, I hope he's all right. What a horrible thing to think based on one's location.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 9:59 AM
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Yeah, what I really want is an english language professional media newspaper with associate website devoted to continental Africa. This is not, I think, a realistic desire. Maybe I'll check and see if the BBC has an Africa-specific podcast.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 9:59 AM
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In a discussion at our office on the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001, it came out that nearly everyone had no very good idea where Afghanistan was, and who its neighbors were, and the basic geography of the country. Lawyers, editors, proofreaders—all pretty educated folk by American standards.

This after twenty years of the Soviet Invasion, the cancellation of the 1980 Summer Olympics, or our participation therein, the failure of the Soviet War, the warlords, the Taliban. All of which got a lot of coverage in what I would have thought was mainstream media, like NPR.

I'm sure my co-workers had heard of these things, but the obstacles and difficulties of doing anything there that were due entirely to geography was complete news to them.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:04 AM
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144: That's silly. Afghanistan is old Bactria. How much simpler could it get?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:08 AM
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This loops back into an education discussion, but I think rote memorization got a worse reputation than it deserves in the US. I never got taught anything in school that assumed I was going to drill a set of facts into my head through repetition -- everything, from first-grade on up, was supposed to be about understanding. But the thing is, there's nothing to understand about 'what countries border on Iran' -- you know or you don't. And it's going to be very hard to understand a lot of the politics, until you have the geography drilled into your head.

(Same thing about history. I picked up some dates along the way, but I think later, more intellectual content-heavy classes would have been made much easier if I'd spent middle-school doing some meaningless drilling of events and dates. Then, once I'd learned what went on in a more meaningful way, I'd have a preexisting temporal structure to work with.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:14 AM
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There is, among humanists and social scientists, often a lot of worry that THEIR discipline, whatever it may be, is dying on the vine. I suppose this isn't true for economists, who seem to be doing just fine, thank you very much. But it actually is is true of geography. Major universities have been cutting geography for more than a decade now. And when there was going to be no more history, y'know just before September 11, 2001, that seemed just fine to many people. Now, though, we're back to needing to know something about the world. And crap, I can't seem to find Iran on a map. I know it's kinda big. Right? And near Africa? Right? Or not. Double crap.

Seriously, it's easy to sound like a scold when saying that Americans are deeply ignorant about the rest of the world. But there are actual consequences that play out in public opinion as a result of this kind of ignorance. There's a wonderful book, by the way, on popular geography. I just can't remember the title. Oh well.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:14 AM
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Kinda sorta pwned by LB. There are worse fates, right?


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:15 AM
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146: I completely agree.

Rote memorization is the best way for a lot of things. Besides geography there are organic chemistry and foreign languages. A lot of the advantage Asian students have in US grad schools is their memorization ability.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:17 AM
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Eureka! The Geographical Imagination in America. Lousy title, I know. But still really interesting on the ebb and flow of geographic knowledge in the United States.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:17 AM
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Re 40-43:

Interesting ideas about working to a peaceful, prosperous, more globalized, less territorial Israel/Zion, from Marginal Revolution:


Using Incentives to Solve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The very interesting Bruce Bueno de Mesquita has a good analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a clever suggestion for moving forward:

"In my view, it is a mistake to look for strategies that build mutual trust because it ain't going to happen. Neither side has any reason to trust the other, for good reason," he says. "Land for peace is an inherently flawed concept because it has a fundamental commitment problem. If I give you land on your promise of peace in the future, after you have the land, as the Israelis well know, it is very costly to take it back if you renege. You have an incentive to say, 'You made a good step, it's a gesture in the right direction, but I thought you were giving me more than this. I can't give you peace just for this, it's not enough.' Conversely, if we have peace for land--you disarm, put down your weapons, and get rid of the threats to me and I will then give you the land--the reverse is true: I have no commitment to follow through. Once you've laid down your weapons, you have no threat."

Bueno de Mesquita's answer to this dilemma, which he discussed with the former Israeli prime minister and recently elected Labor leader Ehud Barak, is a formula that guarantees mutual incentives to cooperate. "In a peaceful world, what do the Palestinians anticipate will be their main source of economic viability? Tourism. This is what their own documents say. And, of course, the Israelis make a lot of money from tourism, and that revenue is very easy to track. As a starting point requiring no trust, no mutual cooperation, I would suggest that all tourist revenue be [divided by] a fixed formula based on the current population of the region, which is roughly 40 percent Palestinian, 60 percent Israeli. The money would go automatically to each side. Now, when there is violence, tourists don't come. So the tourist revenue is automatically responsive to the level of violence on either side for both sides. You have an accounting firm that both sides agree to, you let the U.N. do it, whatever. It's completely self-enforcing, it requires no cooperation except the initial agreement by the Israelis that they are going to turn this part of the revenue over, on a fixed formula based on population, to some international agency, and that's that."

The article cited has a lot more on Bueno de Mesquita and the remarkable series of accurate predictions that he has made using rational choice modeling. See also this piece from Science News, The Mathematical Fortune Teller.

Posted by Alex Tabarrok on October 29, 2007 at 07:15 AM in Economics, Political Science | Permalink |


Posted by: cfw | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:18 AM
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re: 146

How did you learn your multiplication tables, if not by rote?

We did quite a bit of memorisation at school. I don't remember particularly being drilled in geography, but I do basically know where most places are, so I assume it penetrated somewhere along the line.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:18 AM
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Geography is actually a very powerful science. It isn't just maps and locations -- it studies things like trade patterns, water utilization, agricultural potentials, patterns of urbanization, urban transportation networks, and so on. But it's too concrete for the social sciences and too mundane for the humanities.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:19 AM
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re: 153

Yeah, geography at school was much more about weather, and ecology, water cycles and the like, than it was about 'where shit is'. 'Where shit is' was pretty much assumed, I think.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:21 AM
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152: We were given practice problems, but not encouraged to, say, repeat to ourselves: "One times eight is eight; two times eight is sixteen; three times eight is twenty-four..."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:21 AM
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LB, I think the International Crisis Group's reports (they're a conflict thinktank) are generally well regarded - try http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=1098&l=1


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:21 AM
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re: 155

Ah, we were made to stand up and recite the tables. Sometimes it was turned into competitions, with groups reciting them, and trying to be the quickest without making mistakes. There were also some nice moments of 'stand solo at the front of the class and be humiliated when the teacher asks you what 11 x 12 is'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:22 AM
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That looks excellent, thanks.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:23 AM
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Then, once I'd learned what went on in a more meaningful way, I'd have a preexisting temporal structure to work with.

That said, I think there was a fair amount of conflict over whether the preexisting structures were deeply flawed and encoded a bunch of bad notions. I wonder to what extent we moved away from a rote learning method--to the extent that we did--because it suited other purposes as well. (I don't have any idea, and my elementary school experience was very different from what it sounds like yours was like, so I don't even have anecdata to back me up.)


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:24 AM
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LB: The Head Heeb hasn't been posting for a while, but there's a lot of good stuff in his archives. His extensive blogroll might be a good source for more current news.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:24 AM
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ICG is all right, but a bit alarmist, and obviously they won't actually tell you much about those bits of Africa that don't have a crisis going on. BBC World Service is usually very good, plus the FT Surveys (I don't know where those are on the website, but they fall out of the paper FT while you're trying to read the Martin Lukes column on the Tube). Allafrica.com is the news portal, but it's a bit like trying to drink from a firehose.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:25 AM
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I remember having a geography class in sixth grade. Otherwise, it wasn't really taught; history/social studies might require us to fill in a map of ancient Greece or Egypt, but sixth grade was the only time we learned where things were on a map.

And then the U.S.S.R. fell, and that's pretty much that.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:25 AM
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re: 162

Geography was compulsory until about 13 or 14. Then you chose your O level options.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:28 AM
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Yeah, geography at school was much more about weather, and ecology, water cycles and the like, than it was about 'where shit is'.

I think that "where shit is" can't really penetrate a kid's mind without some of this additional information. I spent a lot of time as a child poking through my parents' giant National Geographic atlas, but it wasn't until later that the various places became rich enough in fact and detail to remember. My impression is that British Commonwealth countries do (or did) rather better with this sort of education because of their focus on the history of the British Empire. Kipling's novels reinforce the maps, which reinforce the economics lessons, etc.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:28 AM
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We had to memorize the Soviet republics and their capitals in my h.s. Russian class in 1989. It was so awesome when the whole thing fell apart and I felt like one of only 50 people on earth who knew all the new countries!


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:29 AM
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re: 164

It helps to know where places are, if you intend to send your young men off to pwn them. [Historically speaking, I mean]


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:30 AM
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164: Oh, certainly -- you don't want to just memorize puzzle-pieces on a map.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:31 AM
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My class was mostly a 'where is shit' sort of class, and I agree with Jackmormon that coloring in all those damn maps would have been more useful if it had been coupled with 'and see this river here? that's why they chose to make their last stand here.'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:31 AM
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One of Edelstein's main sources for Africa (and other places) is/was IRIN. Might be worth a look.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:32 AM
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Yeah, but if your son is killed in Djibouti, you get tired of explaining where it is. (I once met a Frenchwoman whose brother spent a hellish year in Djibouti at the end of period of French rule.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:32 AM
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I went to middle school in the mid-sixties in both Canada and the US. There was plenty of geography then in both. Blank map sheets were distributed for particular assignments, as big as the world in Mercator—and everybody knew what that was, and, yes, even in those days the difference that using a different projection or turning the map upside down made to perception was pointed out in class—or as small as Ohio.

You would color and label the rivers or represent the mountains or outline all the counties whose name started with a certain letter.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:33 AM
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164: America's sorry education system is seriously hampering our global ambitions. Needed: a "Geography for Empire" curriculum for middle schools.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:34 AM
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I remember most of my studying between 6th and 9th grade was geography. By the end of 6th, we had to memorize all the capital cities in the world, and by the end of 9th, we had to be able to draw freehand political maps of all the continents with major cities, rivers, and mountain ranges. This was useful in that I do remember completely pointless things about where stuff is, but it came completely isolated from any kind of useful cultural or historical knowledge. We didn't get into serious world politics until 12th grade, and by then I didn't care.

I finally feel like I learned something useful about history when I started studying literature in college, but really not even until grad school.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:34 AM
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For some reason I do pretty well labeling countries on a globe despite never to my recollection having been formally taught that in geography. The thing that's a real (inexplicable) bitch for me? State capitals. I know where your big cities are, but unless your capital is one of them I probably do not know it. (Despite my having been forced to memorize the entire list at least twice in school.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:34 AM
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Yeah, but that was in weird old Canada.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:34 AM
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By the end of 6th, we had to memorize all the capital cities in the world, and by the end of 9th, we had to be able to draw freehand political maps of all the continents with major cities, rivers, and mountain ranges.

Huh. This sounds like at least part of what I want, but I had no idea people were still teaching that way. Maybe I just went to school in a geography-free enclave.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:36 AM
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175 --> 171.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:36 AM
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http://webhost.bridgew.edu/jhayesboh/war/index.htm

War is the way Americans learn geography


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:39 AM
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176: New Yorkers really do get a weird education by midwestern standards, even in the private schools. A good midwestern high school will produce students who all know geography, chemistry, and rhetoric. A good NYC school seems to produce students fluent in classical and Renaissance literature, French, and world history. They've traveled abroad more than us midwesterners, but they don't really know where US states are or what's there.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:40 AM
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178: If you were to distill Schulten's book that I mentioned earlier into a sentence, that would be it. But she also explains that war causes geographers to do some funky things, meaning that the geography that gets learned is pretty odd during wartime.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:42 AM
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When I went to school in Oklahoma, we spent the entire year learning about the 50 states of the USA and what they did there (at the sort of level of "Kansas: wheat; Florida: tourism; Massachussetts: evil"). At the end of the year there was a test and it is a source of enduring pride to me that I was the only kid to get all fifty states plus their capitals in alphabetical order.

To save anyone googling, Djibouti is a little dot which basically exists because it's on the other side of the pinch point of the Gulf of Aden from Yemen and is thus a really convenient colony to have for shifting things between Africa and the Arabian peninsula. Formerly "French Somaliland". Just a the beginning of the top slope of the Horn of Africa. I don't recall it ever having a particularly hellish transition to independence, but John might be right, as Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea have rather raised the bar for "hellish" in that part of the world.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:43 AM
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LB's secret sideline

http://www.lizardpoint.com/fun/geoquiz/


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:43 AM
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151:

What I think of that socalled solution.

165: with the breakup of the USSR it got that much harder to memorise the countries of Asia, the fuckers.

If people still need to learn the nations of the world, this might be a good aide de memoire.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:44 AM
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We had quite a bit of geography in the lower grades, especially 6th, but only one non-required semester-long class in high school (freshman year--most people took it, but the gifted class took its place, so I didn't). I was always very, very good at geography.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:44 AM
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179: That feels right to me; in Columbus I learned pretty much what AWB says a midwesterner does, my kids in Chicago have learned something about halfway between that and her description of NYC.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:44 AM
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179: I'm not sure this is the fault of the schools -- though it may be, as I went to school in Ohio and only know the NYC schools through conversation with friends -- so much as a byproduct of the geographic imagination of New Yorkers, as illustrated by the very famous New Yorker cover.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:45 AM
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181: I thought Djibouti existed so kids could giggle in eighth-grade geography.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:47 AM
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183.3 Helloooo Nurse!


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:48 AM
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Reminds me of Frank Zappa


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:49 AM
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I became incredibly popular with my ex's two little boys when they discovered that I knew a few things about biology, chemistry and physics. My ex attended a very expensive private school in Manhattan and went to a first-tier college, but could not understand even basic principles of math or science. His kids had never met anyone who knew anything about science, so they started calling me "the scientist." Meanwhile, my ex is somewhere saying, "My ex-girlfriend was so brilliant, except the poor thing went to a high school where they didn't even read Homer or Virgil!"


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:50 AM
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The year in Djibouti was completely hellish for that one guy, not necessarily in the big picture. AKA "Afar and Issa". Issas are Somalis.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:52 AM
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190: Whoever pointed out how well you write yesterday, particularly your gift for setting scene, was spot on. I don't know what you're studying in graduate school, but I hope that your future involves prose. I would pay to read what you write. And that's not something I say often.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:52 AM
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This is the thousand-yard-stare ex. A classicist?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:54 AM
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192: *blush* Thanks.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:55 AM
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187. I think you can only say Djibouti with an upper class English accent. Or at least that's the only way I can say it.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:56 AM
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193: A Joycean. There is even a bad Pau/l Aus/ter novel in which a character named "James Joyce" is based on my ex. The representation is deeply distorted and cruel, about which my ex laughed a great deal. (So it's no surprise he wasn't bothered by my blog or comments here when I mentioned him.)


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:56 AM
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Seriously, you're becoming one of the people I read -- sadly, only in comment-sized doses -- when I'm having a hard time producing my own writing. So I should be saying thanks. Now could you just produce a memoir, or a short-form essay, or something a bit longer? That would really help.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:57 AM
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193: And all of my exes are thousand-yard-stare exes. Max was really the extreme, though.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:57 AM
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Geez, I can't ever remember having actual geography lessons. We even had brief once-a-week vocab lessons at my fancy-pants middle school, so I suppose they weren't adverse to drilling, but international geography never came up. The closest was in 4th grade at my local completely median, representative-of-the-nation public elementary school, when we had to memorize the states and their capitals.

I think all my geography knowledge just sort of came through osmosis over the years. It seemed to work a treat though.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:57 AM
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197 to 194


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:57 AM
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I was looking at Google Earth images of Djibouti a couple of months ago, and as far as I could tell, there's basically no water or plant life anywhere. It's basically a port in the desert. Not the sandy kind of desert, more the scrubby hardscrabble desert with occasional flashfloods through the wadis. It looks like an absolutely horrible place.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:57 AM
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195: Now I'm giggling. And saying Djibouti over and over again with my best John Cleese accent. Which, unfortunately, isn't very good at all.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 10:59 AM
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I would also vote for AWB doing some writing. The nice thing about fiction is that you can be completely irresponsible because it's not supposed to be true. That's one thing I hate about The Valve (and most criticism), is that they grind up irresponsible, fun, untrue fiction and produce serious, factual, responsible sausages out of it.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 11:02 AM
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Djibouti has virtually no resources.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 11:03 AM
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My impression is that British Commonwealth countries do (or did) rather better with this sort of education because of their focus on the history of the British Empire

I am reminded of the scene in "Hope and Glory" in which the shrewish teacher points to the wall map and informs the class that the war is all about keeping "the pink bits" for you ungrateful lot.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 11:04 AM
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Makes me think of Terry Pratchett's imaginary Egypt-type country in Pyramids called Djellibeybi.


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 11:06 AM
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204: it's got the port, which isn't nothing. And since the Ethiopia/Eritrea war, it's basically the only route from Ethiopia to the sea. Inland of the port, yeah, not a lot.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 11:06 AM
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201, 204: And what's worse, Ethiopia is still pissed because Djibouti and Eritrea took it's best parts.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 11:06 AM
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the war is all about keeping "the pink bits"

We cannot allow a pink bits gap.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 11:07 AM
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by the way, you lot, check out the John Cooper Clarke videos on my blog to put you in the right mood for the weekend.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 11:10 AM
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Between Graham Greene and Kipling one needs a solid knowledge of geography of the pink bits. ATM.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 11:12 AM
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New Yorkers really do get a weird education by midwestern standards, even in the private schools. A good midwestern high school will produce students who all know geography, chemistry, and rhetoric. A good NYC school seems to produce students fluent in classical and Renaissance literature, French, and world history.

Meanwhile I never took a class in any of those things in high school, except chemistry.

I don't remember ever having a single day of geography in class -- political geography that is, we did learn a lot about biomes and ecosystems and the continental shelf, and even about different kinds of clouds.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 11:14 AM
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210:

Nobody brings the happy like dsquared.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 11:18 AM
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"Twat" is polite for "cunt".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 11:32 AM
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As is "squaw," or so I'm told by reliable sources.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 11:55 AM
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How reliable?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 11:59 AM
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I wish I'd had more rote memorization of geography. Would have made studying for Jeopardy easier.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 12:20 PM
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216: Apparently pretty accurate.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 12:51 PM
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216 -- One learns something every day.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 11-16-07 9:46 PM
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Re: africa news, al jazeera english has pretty good africa coverage


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 11-17-07 2:03 PM
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Ridiculous...I wouldn't judge the actions of some hypothetical Jewish state differently, if said state wasn't bankrolled by the United States. Last time I heard some Dershowitz-bot bloviating about the higher standard to which Israel is held, including a tepid defense of his nation spying on the U.S. more than any other 'ally,' he immediately played the 'Israel needs to defend itself' card; considering the refugee status of Gaza, West Bank, et al, I wondered if his irrational bias preempted him from realizing the Palestinians are engaging in the same activity.


Posted by: EpicureanQuaker | Link to this comment | 11-17-07 5:13 PM
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